February 25, 2014

Have you Ever Wondered if you Mattered?

I've been thinking about something lately and so I'm going to write because I think best when I write. Most of the time I write these thinkings in my journal but sometimes I write them in my blog. And today I'm writing them in my blog.

Matt and I are not native to Montana. We stepped foot in this state for the first time 6 1/2 years ago. And it was in the cab seat of a Budget truck with all of our worldly belongings and our cat. We knew nobody and nothing about our new Montana home. Almost seven years later, it's interesting to reflect back on those first months and those feelings of being a foreigner that we had because it's so far from where we are today.

But let me tell you how it started. We had lived here for three weeks and it was Matt's birthday and it was a Sunday and we were visiting a church in town for the first time. At the end of the service I found the pastor's wife (I don't even remember how I knew she was the pastor's wife) and introduced myself and said we were new in town and were looking to meet people. She immediately brought me over to two young couples that were standing side by side.

After introducing us, she left us to make small talk with our new friends. One couple said, Hey, what are you guys doing for dinner tonight? We have lasagna and a few friends coming over if you want to join us. The other couple said, Hey, what are you guys doing for lunch today? Can we treat you to some place in town?

The second couple went on to become our closest friends. They invited us into every part of their lives. Their family, their vacations, their home, their game nights, their work Christmas parties. Over the next several years, it became second nature for the lot of us to look for those new people or the fringe-ers and say, Hey, what are you guys doing tonight? Want to come over for dinner and games? We knew what it was the be the outsider, the newbie, and we knew what it was to be found out, to have people care and invest, and it was natural to extend that to others. And as a result, we added many more rich friendships into our lives.

In the last couple of years life has changed in nearly every way. Church changed for us. Family changed. Matt started a medical graduate program and spare time became non-existent. We added children. Grief and loss entered our lives.

It became easier and easier to stop looking outward. It became easier to simply (occasionally) look for new faces at church and Bible study, get to know them for a few minutes, shake their hand, smile, and call it good. No more (or few) invitations over for dinner. Rarely, numbers exchanged.

Our lives are full, who can blame us? We have a niche, a system that works, a delicate balance in a season when family time is scarce, we're still healing from loss, relationships that fit and are comfortable and don't require a lot of effort; why would we disrupt that?

Maybe because it doesn't reflect Jesus.

Maybe because it doesn't reflect the way he lived his life and the way the early Christians lived their lives and the way we're exhorted to live our lives. Maybe because Jesus has put his thumb on this area and we can't ignore it any longer.

Listen to me, my friends, and please let me so graciously issue a challenge. I know that easier is....well, easier. I know that when we've found a niche that works, we don't want to disrupt it, interrupt it. We feel like we don't have room for others. Or, more to the point, we simply don't want to make room for others.

But I've been on the fringe. I've been the one to be the newbie. I've been the one to wonder, God, is there a space/place for me here? Do people have room for me in their lives? I know, on a surface level, the answer is yes, but is it actually, in-real-life, tangibly true?

If there is one thing that we long for, it's to know that we matter to others. To know that people care about who we are. But while we can't control other people's actions toward us, we most certainly can control our actions towards others. We can be the one to make room. We can be the one to say, God, I'm available; I'm willing to be uncomfortable. I'm willing to disrupt my niche, my system.

Because here's the thing.

The first couple I mentioned at the beginning? We hung out with them occasionally and always had a good time but we never became close friends. But you know what they gave us that night when they had us over for lasagna? They gave us the gift of community on a day that would have otherwise been very lonely. We brought a cake and sang Happy Birthday, celebrated with new friends, and instead had a wonderful day.

And the second couple? They did become our closest friends. We experienced years of rich friendship and adventures and travel and shared life with them. Several nights a week we got together and had dinner and played games and laughed hysterically and were so richly blessed.

This second couple had years of roots here in Montana. They had close friendships with others and established jobs and a church family but they made room for us anyways. And I think it's safe to say that it's one of the greatest treasures of a friendship we've experienced.

You may be the first couple to someone. Or you may be the second. Reaching out and making room doesn't mean you add imbalance to your life. It doesn't mean that every new person is going to require a best-friendship. It means that in one instance you may simply provide the gift of a home-cooked meal and community to a lonely face. In another, it may mean that you're surprised by the addition of a rich new friendship.

The crux is the willingness of our hearts to make room. The crux is seeing like Jesus did. It's having an eye to look past our circle, to say, That person looks new or out of place or lonely or uncomfortable, I'm going to reach out; I'm going to make room.

Let's make room, my friends. Let's do it together. Let's find someone new to show they matter this week. When we find ourselves heading for the same worn spot by the same familiar people, let's redirect our steps with a prayer, yes?

Second couple. :)
Machu Picchu with Chris and Gloria. Just one of our many vacations together.

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24

February 10, 2014

Seven Favorite Things for Seven Years of Marriage

Today Matt and I celebrate seven years of marriage and I thought I'd do something a little different. I'm going to write seven of my favorite/memorable moments with him or a few of my favorite qualities of him. These are not in any particular order and they're not all or my most favorite or memorable because some are to be cherished in the heart only.

1. When we were in Seattle last year and had finally sat down with the head of the Pediatric Cardiology department, Dr. Lewin, and one of the high-risk OBs, Dr. Delaney, after they had done all of the preliminary ultrasounds and echocardiograms, we were punched in the gut with their findings. Your daughter is in severe distress and heart failure. We cannot do surgery before 34 weeks and at this stage of her heart failure I'm not very optimistic that she'll make it that long. I could hardly catch my breath and every ounce of strength I had went into not falling completely apart at that moment. I looked over at Matt and I could see the same shock and pain in his eyes. And I'm not sure I can quite sufficiently describe this next moment but it's something I'll never forget. I could literally see him pull together a strength from deep within and everything about him changed into a solid strength that literally carried me the next half hour. It's impossible to explain but I'll never forget the look that came over his face and how I could've wept with gratitude for what it did for me in that moment.

2. Ok, a fun one. We flew to New England for my 25th birthday, which is in the fall, and had the time of our lives. We drove the whole coast all the way up to Maine and back. There were so many fun and memorable things on that trip but my favorite was the camaraderie and exclusiveness of it. Just Matt and I making memories only we will share.

I think this was Vermont.

Maine coast.

Maine coast again.

3. One of my favorite qualities about Matt is how humble he is. (He's going to kill me for even writing that.) There's nothing about him that feels he has to make himself known or brag about himself or his achievements. He does what he does with excellence and he does it without any fanfare.

4. Another favorite quality about him is what an amazing Dad he is. I regularly ask myself, What would Matt do in this situation? Just today I texted him a parenting question to get his opinion on what I should do in a certain situation. He's just a flat-out great Dad. He's involved, he's engaged, he's patient, he's consistent. I love the way he talks with the boys respectfully and gives them his undivided attention and genuinely values what they have to tell him. He's never once come home from work or studying and done his own thing because "he deserves it." If it has to do with his own interests, it goes on the back burner in order to spend quality time with us. (And that is honestly something I've never asked him to do, it's simply been what he's done.)

Micah! So itty bitty! 

This is a common thing in our household - fighting over Dad.

The solution.

Holding his baby girl.

5. Another favorite memory is simply every time he laughs really hard. He has a very distinct laugh and it never ceases to make me laugh even harder.

6. When we were dating I had a lot of fears and insecurities about his commitment to me because of a previous serious relationship I had been in. But from the very beginning of us being together, even before we were "official" he would say, I'm in this. I'm fully in this. I'm committed. I look back on that so fondly because it did so much for my heart. And I've never once doubted it all these years. He's shown me in a thousand different ways that he's in this. He's committed.

We were just dating and in Texas meeting his family and friends for the first time. FYI, Texas in August. Don't do it. Just love yourself and don't do it.

Texas in August again. We were about to eat at a place called Mercado's. Matt still tries to convince me TexMex food is just as good as New Mexican food. For all my fellow New Mexican-ers, you understand that that is just an affront on every level.

7. Ok, I'll end with another favorite quality. Matt is responsibly adventurous. I'll have to explain this one. I have always had a wild side and been very adventurous. I usually act first, think later. (I'm not bragging about that; believe me, it's gotten me in trouble more than once.) I'm the type that will usually try anything without fully thinking through the cost, the ramifications (is death a possibility, for example), etc. Matt is just as adventurous but he's also very responsible and very much a thinker and planner. So yes, he's down for going to Puerto Rico for a Babymoon but where are we going to stay? How much are vacation rentals? Rental cars? Superfluous things like that. We honestly got into a huge argument before we left because I was trying to convince him we could camp on the beach the whole time (I was six months pregnant at the time) and he was adamant that that was ridiculous. His good sense won out and thanks to his extensive research and planning skills we (and by we I mean he) found great vacation rentals for our whole trip for very inexpensive. So he's exactly what I need. Willing to be adventurous with me but also has the common sense I can occasionally lack.

(We sadly don't have a ton of pictures from our trip because we took a million before we realized we hadn't put the SD card in. Super sad moment.)

Not the most flattering picture but one of the few we have.

We never know what each year will hold but I'd do it all over again with my favorite guy.

Not very clear but seeing me for the first time in my wedding finery.

Ever since I watched the Sean and Catherine Bachelorette wedding, I've felt so justified about Matt and the groomsmen's bow ties. Theirs were the result of an order mistake; Sean's was the result of purposeful choice seen by millions of people. See? Justified.

Salsa dancing!

Happy seven years, babe!

February 01, 2014

Micah's 4th Birthday and a Birthday Questionnaire

Today is my oldest child's fourth birthday.

Stop it. This is it. This is the last year that he's allowed to get a year older. We keep telling him that and he laughs and tells us that he will be big like us. No. No he will not.

(For those of you new here who enjoy a good birth story, you can go here and here to read the story of Micah Justice's entrance into this world. Some of my favorite and most treasured memories.)

I decided to do a birthday questionnaire with him, an idea that I got from Kelly's Korner blog. I will love looking back and seeing what his answers were when he was four years old.

1. Favorite color: Blue

2. Favorite toy: Jake telescope

3. Favorite TV show: Veggie Tales

4. Favorite movie: Dusty (Planes)

Showing me four years old.

His smile melts me. 

5. Favorite food: Pizza

6. Favorite animal: Monkey

7. Favorite song: Speak Life (by TobyMac)

8. Best friends: Mommy

9. Favorite drink: Ore-chasta (horchata)

10. Favorite thing to play outside: Riding bikes

11. Favorite breakfast: Smoothie

12. Favorite thing about school: Miss Daisy

13. Favorite thing about Asher: Play with Asher.

14. Favorite thing about Daddy: Daddy plays with me.

15. Favorite thing about Mommy: Snuggies with Mommy.

16. Favorite dessert: Ice cream

17. What do you want to be when you grow up: Spiderman

Oh, where will your journey take you, sweet boy?

Hopefully always back to us. 

My sweet, sweet boy. You are the apple of our eyes and our heart's delight. Happy 4th birthday!